The trial of socialists Tommy and Gail Sheridan for perjury took a revealing twist last week when Andy Coulson, now David Cameron’s media chief, took the stand.
When Coulson was editor of the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World, the newspaper ran a story about Sheridan’s private life.
Sheridan sued the paper for libel and won damages of £200,000. Police then spent millions on a major investigation that led to Tommy and Gail being charged with perjury.
Coulson resigned as News of the World editor in 2007 after royal editor Clive Goodman was arrested with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire for hacking into the messages of three members of the royal household and five celebrities.
Under questioning last week from Sheridan, Coulson said that he was not aware that his newspaper had used private detectives to illegally “hack” phone messages.
He said that he had known his paper had used Mulcaire’s research company, Nine Consultancy, and that it gave the company £105,000 a year.
A House of Commons select committee inquiry found that hacking was endemic at his newspaper. Coulson denied this allegation.
The jury has seen pages from notebooks compiled by Mulcaire showing Sheridan’s mobile phone details and pincodes.
Sheridan questioned Coulson over the role of Andy Hayman, a senior Scotland yard officer who investigated the affair. He later resigned and took work with the Times, part of News International. Coulson said it was “nonsense” to suggest this “stinks of corruption”.
The prosecution has dropped a series of charges against Gail and Tommy. The trial continues.